Eric Pickles misses the point on election rules

August 15, 2016 2:29 PM
In Letter to The Guardian, published Monday 15th August

Ballot PaperIt is ironic that a former chairman of the Conservative party criticises the independent Electoral Commission for acting "as a commentator and lobbyist on policy and law" (Electoral fraud crackdown may bring police cordons to poll sites, 12 August) while unilaterally proposing significant changes to our electoral laws.

The Electoral Commission was established by parliament in 2000 precisely to provide independent commentary and advice on electoral legislation. Although Eric Pickles is right to highlight instances of electoral abuse, his report ignores the most significant problems.

The last general election campaign showed the clear need to reform the laws on spending limits. We need to reassert the principle that rich parties should not be able to "buy" the election in marginal seats by spending vast sums of money in them, claiming that it is national campaign expenditure and not subject to any limit for spending in the constituency.

Many young people, together with those living in the private rented sector or in the most deprived communities, are missing from the electoral register. They don't count when it comes to drawing constituency boundaries and they are of course much less likely than others to vote because they must get registered before being able to do so, and it is not easy to check whether or not you are registered.

We need reforms to improve and safeguard the health of our democracy, but not just those that may favour one political party.

Chris Rennard
Liberal Democrat, House of Lords